There is huge untapped potential in the Asian foods category - despite its relative maturity - according to KeHE, a leading national distributor of natural and specialty food products.
Jim Stange, who oversees KeHE’s ethnic food category, was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after hosting an event in Los Angeles that brought together manufacturers and retailers to discuss how to exploit growth opportunities in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Philippino and Vietnamese foods.
We’re seeing some of the most growth in Filipino and Vietnamese foods
He added: “About 80% of the volume in the category is driven by what I’d call mainstream Asian brands that have been created for the US market, but the real growth is coming from truly authentic brands.
“However, you do see some brands that are both authentic and mainstream, like Kikkoman, which are available in Asia and the US.
“We’re seeing some of the most growth in Filipino and Vietnamese foods. Huy Fong Foods’ [Vietnamese] Sriracha hot sauce is just going crazy, while microwaveable meals from Snapdragon and Kusina are a great example of what we call global cuisine made easy.
“There are also a lot of unusual Filipino products such as Magnolia’s purple yam ice cream that have real potential.”
Retailers are starting to update and refresh their planograms and to offer more convenience
While Indian food is a smaller category right now, some brands such as Maya Kaimal, Patak’s and Tasty Bite are doing well, he said.
“A lot of retailers have been stocking Asian foods for a long time, but are now starting to update and refresh their planograms and to offer more convenience.
“Instead of having primarily ingredients, they are thinking about microwaveable meals and pouches and options where you can make a meal with just two or three ingredients. There are also lots of opportunities in snacks.”
Asian population in the US is projected to double by 2060
Dollar sales of Asian foods were up 10.2% across all US retail channels between 2010 and 2012, he said, driven in part by the growing Asian population, which represents 4.8% of the US population and is projected to double by 2060.
But consumers of all ethnic backgrounds are buying Asian foods, he added: "We and our retail partners see continuing significant growth potential within the Asian food category.
“Given the overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants, we will certainly plan to host more carousels like this in the future; it’s clearly a formula that works well for our partners.”